Skip to content

The High School Reunion

December 21, 2011

The high school that haunts my dreams.

A person’s fifth year high school reunion only happens once in a lifetime.  Thanks goodness for small graces.

We congregated in a small bar called the something Irish sounding; let’s call it the Golden Harp.  The class presidents for 2006 rented out the back room and it was about 60 people too small and 10 degrees too hot.  If the walls had been painted red with flames for accoutrement it would have perfectly rounded out my vision of being in the Netherworld.

When engaged in high school reminiscing, two types of people emerge: those who loved high school and saw it as the peak of their social standing, and those that tolerated it, survived, and moved right along.  I am of the latter category.  High school definitely had some good times, don’t get me wrong: I had some people I connected with, a few classes that made me think, one or two teachers I remember fondly and a few epic extracurricular adventures that I will still grin about when I am old and gray.  (Remember running away from those security guards and hopping the fence?  Remember that production of swing dancing, Much Ado About Nothing?)  But still, I didn’t like who I was back in high school much; I was way too serious, self-constrained, unthinkingly aggressive, and moody as the moon.  I also didn’t like a lot of my peers: they were selfish, petty, mean and above all, the worst of sins: uninteresting.

Fast forward to now.

The first thing that struck me was that pretty much everyone was a cleaner, prettier version of their high school self.  Pimples erased, hair shiny, muscles defined, baby fat gone.  We were objectively a good looking crowd.  Everyone walked around in small circles in the throng, looking for people to talk to, while covertly checking everyone else out.  We had just one chance to impress everyone again, and for some reason, we still cared about making that visual impression, even me.

For the impression we were trying to make was just that: visual.  Even in conversation, people just tried to present the shiniest, best version of themselves to win the approbation of the crowd.  A reunion is ostensibly about reconnecting, catching up after time gone, but we weren’t doing that.  We were showing off, preening.  I half heard gossip from seven or eight different circles as I meandered around the room, trying to find someone that I cared enough about to actually catch-up with in a meaningful manner.  The gossip slithered into my ear something like this:

“Did you see ____?  Still dresses like a slut.  I guess some things don’t change!”

“He lost all his hair.  Gross.  To think that I had a crush on him way back then.”

“Did you hear the news about ______?  She is pregnant.”

“He’s so gay looking.”

“She’s unemployed.  Guess that college diploma doesn’t mean much when you’re a drinker!”

And on.   And on.  And on….

To say these sorts of comments made me sad is a bit of an overstatement.  I expected nothing more, to be frank.  As my father said once, people don’t change that much in five years.  Come back for a 15 or 20 year reunion and not only will there be fewer people around, the ones that are there you can actually have a meaningful moment with.

This will be me, next reunion.

And that was something I saw in that room too: potential.  I imagined for a second what would happen, if instead of these people coming together for a high school reunion, they had come together for the first time as a graduate school’s entering class of 2011.  If relationships were not already forged and set in stone from our fallible days as less formed people.  As I looked around the room, I saw some people who I suspected I could be friends with now, if we didn’t have the baggage of the past preventing us from actually revealing true selves.  And I realized with astonishing clarity, that if I started afresh with this group of people, I would probably like a good many of them.  We had grown into ourselves for the better, for the most part.

Still, it’s an academic proposition: the past cannot be erased.  Memories and experiences form personality tendencies, and my time in high school, with its battle scars from engaging with these people in mini-social skirmishes, has influenced who I am today.  But it was nice to think, as I wandered my way around these hostile near-strangers, that it could be different, in another world.  That even the girl that made your life hell in the 9th grade could be a compassionate soul to someone else.  Maybe in time, past injustices and hurts will fade enough that we can start making real, new connections again.  I can only hope, and make myself be open to the possibility in the future.

I guess what I am saying is, I suppose I’ll go to my 10th year high school reunion.

After all, it only happens once, nu?

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: